Eyeballs Deep in Scarlet Emerald


Biotech Horrors in an Old Spanish Dungeon

The dream started with me and a few dozen others as prisoners in a substandard underground prison. It looked archaic, like the bowels of a hidden dungeon beneath the old Spanish fort in Saint Augustine, refitted with (comparatively) modern bars and poor lighting. The supplies were also substandard, mattresses on the floor, an all-pervasive dirty dampness to the place, the decrepit air of Escape from Alcatraz and then some. It seemed like you could get an infection just from spending the night there.

I remember finding mixed pills lumped together in an old plastic bottle, but there was nothing to identify what these pills were. I got my chance to appeal to some kind of officer of the guard and his men about substandard conditions in a dingy sick ward, made an impassioned speech about our health and all that. Other prisoners joined in, became restless.

The guards' answer was to force us down a set of stairs into a dark tunnel, making us wade out to the waist in brackish water. I observed a few guards using long collapsible batons to shove some of the prisoners into a narrow, bricked up dead end.

I got a bad feeling as one of the guards shined a flashlight down through the water onto a small opening at the bottom of the wall, on what seemed like a rocky cone-shaped shell with a mollusk-like brown mantle and three fat orange tentacles beneath it. The tentacles shot out to grab three prisoners and pull them violently into the small opening. Their bodies crunched underwater in a cloud of blood.

We moved up out of the tunnel in haste, the lead guard satisfied with his visceral example, and I wondered just what the hell that thing was and where they found it. As we walked past another entrance, I could hear something moving around. I spied the mollusk thing out of the water, sliding forward to ambush us, realizing that the guards still thought they controlled this thing, but that it didn't care who it ate.

In my heightened state of terror, I grabbed a grenade from a guard, pulled the pin and bounced it into the tunnel, then ran. The explosion caused ancient masonry to collapse and all hell to break loose, but I didn't stick around to find out the details, just managed to break out to the surface through an old window into a hot, humid South Florida backyard hedged by a tall coral stone wall, which seemed like the rear of the Bonnet House (a historic estate here) – lush gardens, looming strangler fig trees and broad-leaf vines, the works.

I remember seeing my boss, Sandra. Apparently, she was one of the administrators here that had wandered out of the house when she heard the explosion below. She seemed okay, so I waved her over to me. I saw a parked black Humvee with the driver-side door and hatch open. There were weapons inside, one of which was a sleek long rifle with a weird grenade launcher, so I took it (why I wouldn't just drive away, I don't know. I don't remember keys though.) The weapon felt too light and well balanced for its size, like technology fifty years from now; I presumed government shenanigans were afoot. By this point, it was all reactions and survival over sensible answers anyway.

A guard and five prisoners were emerging from a ramped access passage capped by cellar doors at the far corner of the yard. The guard rode out on a three wheeler, but he wasn't right. Something was wrong with the way he looked and moved. I decided that something had gotten to him, got inside him. He was one of them.

I fired the grenade launcher.

It hit the bike with a compact concussion that flipped the vehicle into the garden wall and splashed viscous blue-green liquid. This liquid reacted with air as fizzing white foam that stuck to whatever it touched. The bike must have been thirty yards away, but I could hear the foam from where I was standing. It dissolved anything organic, presumably some chemical or enzyme to remove evidence or contain a biological threat.

If there was anything human left inside the guard, it died howling. He just dissolved with the plants in a reddening cloud of fizzing white, smothering the three-wheeler and garden wall as it expanded. I stepped back a few paces, adjusting the rifle. Sandra vomited.

The prisoners shuffled behind, giving the dissolving foam a wide berth. I was still recovering from the horror of watching a man melt. I noticed the prisoners were moving weird, walking too close together – and in synch. As they got closer, I could see that even their breath was coordinated. I had time to see two pistols that looked like the grenade launcher on the seat of the Humvee, grabbing them and handing one to Sandra. They were about thirty feet away when I fired the pistol; again a concussive pop and the deadly foam. I can only guess that Sandra was firing too by now. Infected alien hive mind prisoners shambling to get you will do that. Still, watching five people dissolve at close range will fuck you up, I don't care who you are. It was a dream, but I have some vivid dreams.

That's all I remember.